Eight is Enough

I’m not easily surprised. Maybe my imagination is such that what is preposterous to others, is plausible to me. When it comes to people, I can’t say I’ve seen it all, but I can say I’ve imagined it all.

It doesn’t always prove beneficial. It can restrict my empathy to others. At times it can even lead to errors in my judgment. Fortunately, more often than not, it provides me a psychological air bag from a collision with the unexpected.

Until last week.

I will attempt to condense a lengthy tale.

It started with an attempt to meet my grandfather by birth. He is getting old and we have mutual acquaintances and he was a famous football player and I thought it would be cool to meet him. In case you haven’t decoded the message, I’m adopted. Adopted by two amazing people who spent a lifetime working to create a family in the truest sense of the word. Everyday of my life I am incredibly grateful to my parents. They loved me beyond imagine and prepared me for the world in a manner that was undeserved by a short, mouthy, Afro-toting, rebellious, inconsiderate teenager. There needs to be a new holiday entitled Parents Day, so I can properly share my emotions, which like most sons I neglect.

In short I have never ever felt not theirs. I am. And they are mine. But if you’re adopted, you’ll understand the itch. You don’t want to leave your family. You just want to understand your genetics.

Years ago I met my birth mother. Then a birth uncle. Then some birth cousins. Then another birth uncle. But my birth father proved elusive.

Finally last week, with less than twenty-four hours notice, it somehow fell together that I would be able to meet him. I was curious but not nervous.

The meeting went as expected. Yes I just called it a meeting. Well it went as expected for five minutes, until he told me I had seven brothers and sisters.

Excuse me?

From what I know, my birth sperm donor had three kids. But eight? Whoa!

Call me floored. TKO’d. Flabbergasted.


So now in the name of Thomas Braden I am on a mission to meet them all. I am the senior half sibling. The others range in age to from 23 to 46, and geographically across the continent. Some have already connected with me. I’ve been told others aren’t so interested.

It’s a unique moment when a new door to your own life is opened up. Finding out I have a slew of new genetic connections (I really don’t know what to call them) is closer to landing on a new planet.

So I’m off to find out what they are all about. Maybe learn something about myself. Maybe not. Guess I better get prepared for a few more surprises.

Stolen Kisses

Some lucky gal received a Panasonic flat screen for Valentines yesterday.

Hopefully she likes it, because it won’t be wrapped with a gift receipt. In fact I’m not sure it will be wrapped at all, given it was ripped off the reception wall in my office. Ripped off is correct, this TV was stolen from TrojanOne. We wuz robbed!!!!

The thief was proficient. Our surveillance camera has four minutes of video to prove it. In two hundred and forty seconds he pried the door open, unhinged the TV from its bracket, disconnected the mess of cables, pulled it from the wall, and fled. Wham bam, thank-you Ma’am.

I wonder what makes a man turn to taking another’s possessions for a living? Do they consider it a professional vocation? Was there an aptitude test along the way?

Seems to me this thief has a lot of transferable skills he could put to use in a more legit fashion. He is a planner, as he knew the timing of our building security, entering our lobby shortly after the main door became unlocked. Clearly he has manual dexterity as he jimmied our lock with minimal damage to the door. Focus is no problem as he had marked his prize allowing no distractions, like the much more valuable computer sitting on the desk, get in his way. I appreciate his orderly ways, as there was nary a mess left behind. He also possesses a pint or two of luck as the four or five people who are usually in at that early hour, were all coincidentally somewhat late that day.

Hopefully it was worth the trouble. It doesn’t add up to me. What value is a flat screen in this day and age? Did he want it for his condo? Did he sell it for bus fare? Did he give it to his sweetie?

Bet if he did, he stole a few kisses as well.



Second Fiddle

I feel badly for Alex Smith.

Smith is the recently minted backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

He has fallen from being the overall # 1 pick in the NFL draft, and after several underwhelming seasons, to almost leading his team to the Super Bowl a year ago. Magically this year he was leading the NFL in passer rating before the cruel twist of being injured led to becoming a sideline patrolling clipboard carrier.

If I have to explain this to you, then clearly you are not a football fan and evidently you are not tracking the second biggest story line of Super Bowl XLVII. It’s not that Smith is the first QB in NFL history to lose his role as a starter. But it’s the way he fell on the depth chart and the amazing manner in which he has responded that contributes such an intriguing thread to this story.

There is an unwritten rule in sport that you don’t lose your job to injury. Meaning your replacement’s tenure is over the minute you are medically cleared to play again. In football this rule is close to a constitutional right especially for key skill positions such as quarterback. Amplify that Smith was, statistically at least, the best performer at the QB position in the league, at the time of his injury, and the violation of the injury rule code is even more amazing.

But unfortunately for Smith waiting in the wings was a freak of nature named Colin Kaepernick. I will bet you a souvenir Super Bowl t-shirt that you never witnessed CK7 play in college at Nevada. Well I saw a few games on late late late night ESPN, and I knew what was coming. Partially anyway. Not even his supporter emeritus, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, could have imagined what was coming.

Kaepernick is part Michael Vick, part Peyton Manning, part Cam Newton, and part Adrian Peterson. Whatever parts I missed are covered in his tattoos. This guy can play.

He has set records with his legs, sliced up defenses with his arm, and energized a franchise with his energy. Plus he seems genuinely nice in his interviews.

So this weekend will feature this newly minted phenom against retiring warrior Ray Lewis.

What about Smith? Has he run away to pout? Is he spending his waking hours inebriated? Has he picked up a weekend’s supply of Mardi Gras beads for his stay in NOLA?

None of the above. Instead he is thrilled to be competing in a Super Bowl. He has turned into a coach, confidant, and cheerleader for his usurper. He has kept his skills sharp, his teammates motivated, and his ego in check for the betterment of his entire team.

Let that be a lesson for us all. I know we all want to be #1, but at times fate or failure stop us short of our goal. Alex Smith will benefit in the long run from how he responded to this dose of adversity. He will rise again.

They Say It’s My Birthday

Thank-you for your Happy Birthday wishes on Wednesday.

One of my favourite proclamations was an in-person greeting from a client who congratulated me on “living another year.” Now that could win the title for Most Disingenuous or it could be genuine to the core. Knowing the proclaimer as I do, my vote is for the latter.

Reflecting on those words makes me realize, that’s really what Happy Birthday means. For years I have been slightly grumpy and mildly rude about my birthday. I really don’t like the fact that the scoreboard clock clearly shows I have less time left in the game. I’m always in too much of a hurry for my own good, and I often think – will I ever get done everything I have set out to do?

So how come Mr. Obstinate is changing his views on birthdays? Is it age? Surely its not just three words from a friend. Is it success. Is it failure? Is it mid-life crisis?

Candidly it’s probably reflection. In the past several months I have amped up my personal reflection time, use of motivational CD’s and magazines, and even gone so far to revamping my self-management tools to include more introspection.

One of the neatest things I have learned is the Habit of Gratitude. There are many, many, many versions, teachings, philosophies available on the topic. But I have really picked up on the simple process of everyday identifying three (yes me love threes!) events from my day, for which I should be grateful. It could be feedback from a client, it could be hiring a talented new staff member, it could be a really satisfying workout, phone conversation, or time spent with a family member. It’s amazing how identifying three positive occasions in a twenty-four hour window, can eradicate most negative events in a day.

So back to my birthday (it was January 16th if you want to mark it in your 2014 calendar!) and my three treasures? Hard to narrow down… but let me throw these at you and see if your reaction would be as grateful as mine:
1. My son posted the following on Facebook: “Happy birth dad…ur the best dad ever.” Might have been written before, but when its written for you… it feels like the first time.
2. My wife and kids performed the version of Happy Birthday we recently learned at the Alphorn in Collingwood, during my youngest son’s celebration. I think it needs to replace the traditional version, with all due respect to Preston Ware Orem and friends.
3. I received my annual birthday phone message, from a childhood friend who now lives in Georgia. I have known him for over forty years and for the past twenty, no matter where he is… he leaves me a birthday voice mail. A simple tradition, yet I am always a tiny but surprised, and always a lot bit pleased, when it comes.



According to Wikipedia, the origin of New Year’s resolutions ranges from the Babylonians promising to return borrowed objects and pay down debts to the Romans making promises to their god Janus, the namesake of the month of January.

While there are many online sources that can tell us from where the tradition sprang, there are even more voices that offer unsolicited advice on why people don’t succeed in completing their vows. Reading those essays made me realize that this year I need to do a little better job of thinking through my resolutions.

Perhaps I need to start with the most basic question of all. Should I make any resolutions? Hmm. That leads to the startlingly obvious issue….why do I make them?

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you that I do feel a New Year is monumental. Materially you could argue it’s false. The most physically significant change to our lives is adjusting our date memory to end in a 3 versus a 2! The rest? A new scorecard for your business? A new semester for your schooling? A new season of holiday weekends to plan?

But the feeling does persist. Yet I am not sure I can articulate it.

Perhaps it’s because there is no more liberating feeling than starting over. A clean slate. A fresh beginning. A whole new ballgame.

If last year was a tough one, you can see a world of potential in this one.

If last year was a great one, you can envision keeping your friend momentum chugging along!

If last year had ups and downs, surely 2013 will be all peaks.

Most of us like keeping score. Keeping score until infinity isn’t any fun. So a calendar year provides a nice tidy beginning and end to your personal game of life. The year is the entire game. The months and weeks become periods. The days become shifts.

So back to the resolutions? I am going to put to use this Wayne Gretzky quotation, “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

So don’t be afraid of making resolutions you don’t achieve. Make a few. Chase them with enthusiasm.

My #1 Resolution for 2013? I already told you!

Be resolute.

Have a Safe Holiday Season

I used to drink and drive. I probably shouldn’t put that in print.

It’s nothing to be proud of. Not words that make one look good, smart, or cool. But thanks to society, maturity, and unfortunate tragedy I smartened up.

Yet our society has not shaken the deadly shadows of drunk driving. The tragedy in Dallas, where Cowboy Josh Brent killed teammate and long time friend Jerry Brown, is the most recent high profile reminder. After a night of private clubbing, and according to tweets several pails of Ace champagne, Brent was allowed to get behind the wheel.

Minutes later the car was flipped over. Brown was dead. Brent was in shock. Families and teammates would soon be in agony.

Nothing can be done to change what happened in Texas. But we can all try to make sure it doesn’t happen closer to home. Unfortunately for me it’s been top of mind for the past eighteen months given the result of a tragedy involving two former football players of mine.

I’m not going to rehash the story for you. Instead I am going to ask you to watch the attached story from CityTV. If this doesn’t stop you from drinking and driving, I am unsure what will.

Have a safe holiday.



Freedom 55

Freedom 55Today, November 2nd, 2012, is my parents’ fifty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Apparently, the emerald or any green stone is the appropriate gift for this midpoint between the golden (50th) and diamond (60th) anniversary milestones. Emerald is quite appropriate given my folks just got back from a tour of Scotland and Ireland.

Congrats, Mom and Dad.

1957 was not much like 2012.

In Arkansas, the infamous Little Rock Nine were the first Black American students to enter a white high school. “Enter” is a loose phrase as this small group were escorted into the school guarded by the 101st US Airborne. Pause and consider that. When my parents were getting married, black kids could not attend white high schools in the Untied States. Holy Obama. Continue reading “Freedom 55”

Lincoln Alexander: My Brother

Humiliated, I slowly climbed the steps of the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). It was the late 1980s and this was my first invitation to a big fundraising dinner.

Waiting on the steps was my client, who flashed a mischievous grin as I exited the taxi.

Instantly that grin was abated by the swat of his wife’s purse. It took her only a nanosecond to decipher that I had been the victim of his latest prank. I’m unsure of its official title, but it somehow rhymes with tell the twenty-four year old agency guy it’s cool to wear his emerald green suit and burgundy wing tips, to an event you consciously know is black tie.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Thankfully our table was well in the back and out of the sight of the head table guests and the keynote speaker. Not only was I the only person wearing a suit that looked like it walked off the set of the prime time TV show, Miami Vice, I was also the only person in the room who was close to the same colour as “Tubbs”.
That is outside of the keynote speaker, Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander. I was thrilled. Alexander was Canada’s first ever black federal MP and first ever black Lieutenant Governor. He was an inspiration to a young black kid trying to navigate his way through life and I was pumped to hear him speak.

But now my sartorial embarrassment turned to anger. I seethed that I looked like a clown. Here I was listening to one of our country’s greatest Black Canadian pioneers and I looked like I came from a Malcolm X look-alike contest. Continue reading “Lincoln Alexander: My Brother”

The Agony of Defeat

I don’t know if you read Success magazine. I admit, I do. And I listen to the monthly CDs featuring the publisher Darren Hardy. And I read some of their “self-help” publications.

Some of you may find this sort of publication cheesy. In a way I agree. But I also find a lot of value in them. It’s always good to spend a few quiet moments reflecting on my professional and personal life.

The most recent issue really resonated with me. Unfortunately. Continue reading “The Agony of Defeat”

Gift Receipt

In the cold dark hours of the morning, as I dragged my recycling bin to the curb, I had a chance encounter with my newspaper carrier. It always seems odd to me watching adults deliver the paper. Not that there is anything wrong with it… but having been a ten-year-old paper-boy growing up, I still can’t shake the paradigm that the paper should be delivered by the neighbourhood kid.

Every once in a while, my departure time coincides with the delivery of one of our early morning newspapers. Usually my interaction with the delivery person is a nodded confirmation that the rag should be left on my porch, followed by a mumbled thank-you for his services.

This recent morning wasn’t much longer, but gratifyingly much more meaningful, all because of a single sentence uttered by my trusty town crier. It was all in the quick moment he took to thank me for his Christmas bonus.

Thank-you is an underused and invaluable phrase. Continue reading “Gift Receipt”